So lets look at the US squad's performance objectively, at least as objectively as we can.
- Their fast bowling consisting of Salman, Hamad and Mital Patel was quite successful but I only see Hamad as having the ability and experience to be a true strike bowler. He has ability to raise his game as the opposition gets better. It is often the case that really good outswinging bowlers like Hamad will often miss the edge of lesser batsmen. Salman is improving rapidly but I dont see him at the same level as yet as Hamad. Mital Patel bowled surprisingly well but he appears to be a confidence bowler -- if his loose deliveries are dispatched with ease, he may struggle.
- Their slow bowling is mediocre. Might sound harsh but the reality is that Shayan and Gurpreet are not the sort of bowlers who will trouble good batsmen. While Shayan may be effective from an economy rate standpoint, Gurpreet bowls far too many loose deliveries every over for a spinner. Neither of them stood out in the Western Conference U19 matches. In fact, Viraj Sehgal of SWR was a more effective slow bowler who may not have caught the fancy of the selectors in the December trials. The fact that Pranay Suri who has been dominant slow bowler in U19 matches out West has been mostly ignored as a bowler is a shocker to those who have seen him in action. He needs to be shown faith so that he can bowl with confidence and deliver the goods.
- Their top-order batting consisting of Taylor, Mirza and Joshi is one where it will click when it is their day but it won't be their day when the opposition bowls enough wicket-taking deliveries. Taylor is flamboyant but he is also reckless. Mirza appears solid but I am not convinced that he can be patient when the going gets tough. Joshi is a talented batsman but he tends to throw his wicket far too often to loose shots, something he needs to work on.
- The middle order batting consisting of Babar, Jodha and Suri has the problem that they are inherently attacking batsmen who take chances. When it comes off, it is fun to watch as runs come in a hurry. When it doesn't, the batting will be in disarray.
- Part of the strength of the US team is its all-rounders -- Salman and Hamad. Both are batsmen who are gritty, put a price on their wicket and can wield the long handle very effectively when needed. It shouldn't be lost that Hamad took the USA score from 121 to 143 in the Canada match in the company of the #10 batsman, Mital. Those 22 runs ultimately were the difference between the two sides.
- Hard to say that US boasts a fine fielding side. It appears average with a good upside if trained by the likes of Robin Singh. Several catches were put down, some easy, but it never cost the US too much. This will not continue to be the case in Ireland and beyond. Taylor is an okay wicket keeper -- not bad but not great. And the fact that he opens the batting means that the side needs a true wicket keeper so that Taylor can focus on his batting up top.
- In the 14, Trevor Singh is a good upcoming batsman but he is not yet ready for U19 level cricket when there are better options in the reserves. The two pacers, Kalim and Waleed, are unlikely to get a game given that in addition to the fast bowlers in the 11, the likes of Jodhbir and Joshi can bowl effective medium pace. So having both these pacers in the 14 is a waste.
- In the reserves, Akash should find a place in the playing 11 especially against good opposition on sporting tracks. He is a technically-strong and dependable batsman and he also keeps wickets regularly for his A division Northern California league side. Krish is also a player who deserves a close look as he is a good batsman and a good off spinner. Both of them did quite well in the Western Conference U19 matches and the December trials which should bode well. In fact, the NWR side that they played for and that Suri captained easily handled the SWR bowling side which is effectively the US bowling side in 2010.
Now a look at the coach, support staff and selectors.
- I like Robin Singh as coach. His demeanor is just right. He does not get carried away and he is not stingy when praise is due. Hope he returns.
- I do not like the selection committee. Sew Shivnarine, an experienced top-class cricketer, tends to dominate the committee with his strong views, some his own and some maybe whispered into his ear. He ignores statistics and recent performances and also seems to ignore what Abrar Ahmed and Sunny Khan, the other selectors, may have to say. He may feel, and arguably so, that that they haven't played enough cricket to be selectors. But that shouldn't mean that he has full and total control of picking the 14 and possibly the 11. Let us not forget that his performance as coach in New Zealand (U19 WC 2010) was disastrous. Not that they lost most of their matches (they finished 15 out of 16), but the team did not appear to play for him as the tournament progressed. That is not good.
- I am also against support staff like physio and manager being USACA board members or closely connected with USACA administration. Far too much conflict of interest. Masood, USACA Board Rep for CER, is a physiotherapist by training but having him in the mix can make things complicated. There is evidence that it has. Not sure about what influence manager King had on the side. And having Sew around would have made Robin's job that much harder as Sew happens to the ex-coach who likely thought he was going to get the job again until Robin was given it.
The US side can finish in the top six in Ireland and should do so given the other nine countries in the mix. But the goal should be to be in the top 12 in the U19 World Cup in 2012. Anything less should be considered a disappointment. To achieve the goal of top 12, merit and performance should be the guide, not power politics that we have seen far too often in the US to our own detriment.